TCR I, Sheeplishly

There’s this book, right?  I wrote it.  And I haven’t talked much about it on the blog because I’ve maintained a certain kind of consistency here.  EtOC has been a place to rant about the way I think things should be done, my struggles with holding myself to my own standards, and questions of pragmatic philosophy.  Turning this into book-promotion central seems weird.  However, there’s this book.  And I wrote it.  I started it in 2009 with NaNoWriMo, and in the time I’ve been working on it, I’ve only talked about it on the blog a handful of times, so maybe I’ve got a couple of freebies coming, right?

So feel free to skip forward until I get back to the philosophy.  I’m going to talk about my book.

Let’s start with genre.  I’m not much of a highbrow reader, with few notable exceptions (The God of Small Things, for example).  But I’m not much of a nerd either.  I didn’t grow up speaking elvish because of my obsession with Lord of the Rings, for example.  My favorite books were (and still are) anything by Peter S. Beagle and anything involving the retelling of a fairytale.  I read and re-read Robin McKinley’s Beauty as a kid.  Literary fiction isn’t my thing.  No offense to people who write long, beautiful books in which nothing much happens.  I wish I could, I just get distracted when faced with navel-gazing.  So The Camellia Resistance (and the books that will follow in the trilogy) isn’t literary fiction.

It also doesn’t really fit into any other genre easily.  It is most closely aligned with Urban Fantasy, but there aren’t any vampires or women running around in black patent leather corsets.  More’s the pity, because I wouldn’t mind being the kind of badass that runs around in a black patent leather corset.  It isn’t traditional fantasy.  It isn’t magic realism, though the grounded factor is important to me, and there are super-natural elements.

One thing the book is unequivocally is dystopian.  Dystopian urban fantasy.  That sounds about right.  So what’s the book about?  Well, we have Willow Jane Carlyle.  Willow is a woman dedicated to the boundaries of the careful world she lives in.  There are regulations and she follows them to the letter.  However, under her regulation exterior, she’s got the memory of a mother who was anything but regulation.  That part of her has been compressed so far it’s threatening to burst her at the seams, she’s just not paying attention.

When she meets a man at a conference, she reacts impulsively, all while telling herself that what she’s doing is perfectly reasonable.  Three days later, she’s on the floor of her hotel room bawling over a sudden reversal of expectation.  Unfortunately for her, these tears are just the beginning.  What should have been a painful miscalculation in love ends up costing Willow everything: her job, her identity, and the regulation life she’d worked so hard to build.

So what happens when the worst thing you can think of takes place? In Willow’s case, not only does she go on breathing, she makes her first friend, crosses the wasted landscape that used to be the United States, discovers a father she never knew, and pulls at a thread that will shake the New Republic of America to its core.

Somehow, having a female protagonist tends to put a book at risk for getting labeled “chick lit.”  I’d like to think the story is gender neutral.  At least early reviewers and reviews have all been men and haven’t fussed at me for asking them to read something that involves the stereotypical things you might find in chick lit.  There is no shopping, unless you count breaking into an abandoned Walmart for supplies.  Nick Owchar, in the conversation he had with me behind the scenes of his review, mentioned that he wasn’t so sure the book was for him when he first started, but that he found it “engrossing.”  Just saying, if you’re a guy and you are wary of reading a book where the first character you meet is a girl, you can relax.  Other guys have read and liked the book.  Promise.

Finally, an excerpt:

Willow bent to check the computer. It was still on. She stood to see if anyone else was having trouble but before she could free herself of the desk, someone was rapping on her door. Her stomach dropped into her kneecaps and the room began to spin. She sat quickly, afraid her legs would give way. The door opened.

“Willow.” It was her boss.

“Nate.” She hoped her voice didn’t tremble as much in his ears as it did in her mouth.  “Come in.”

He entered hesitantly and closed the door behind him before taking the seat in front of her desk. “Willow, I just got a phone call.”

Willow raised an eyebrow and tried a nonchalant response. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“No. Actually, it has come to the attention of the Ministry that you are no longer capable of serving in the best interest of the Republic.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, but she knew the answer.

“Willow, you have shown a terrible lack of judgment, the kind of failure in judgment that calls into question your fitness for a position of responsibility.”

“But I didn’t,” she protested.

“I’m the one who insisted on sending you to Atlanta. They wanted to send someone else. I went to bat for you because I was concerned about the hours you were putting in and the toll it was taking on your health. When I told you to go live a little I didn’t mean to go whore it up with a marked man.” Nate’s voice veered between offended and condemning, like a parent who has been hurt by a child’s disobedience.   “I hate to be so harsh, but there is no other light to put this in. You let me down.”

“He wasn’t marked.” For the second time that day, a tear slipped from under Willow’s eyelashes. “He wasn’t marked,” she whispered.

“You know as well as I do, that is impossible. You were checking his dossier when your access was cut. He was marked 5 years ago. You saw it with your own eyes. I’m going to have to ask you to clear out your personal effects.” He looked around the bare room. There were no photographs, no mementos, only several special act awards and a plaque recognizing her work in the marking campaign.

Willow stared at Nate, immobile.

“Please Will, make this easy on both of us,” he finally whispered. Usually Nate enjoyed exerting his power, but he hadn’t come to work prepared for this. “Grab your purse. I’ll walk you out.”

She wasn’t moving, but the set of her shoulders wasn’t defiant.

“Don’t make me call security. I don’t want to do that to you.” He looked down at her with his charming smile, the one that he used when he wanted something that wasn’t going to go well for the person on the receiving end. Willow blinked slowly, then shook her head. She opened the drawer that held her purse and noted the stack of disks beside her black bag. On impulse, she pushed the first three CDs on top of the pile into the open mouth of her purse. She stood slowly. Nate stood too.

“I’m sorry to have to do this, Will. I had big plans for your career.”

Willow turned a weak smile in his direction and pulled her coat from the hanger behind the door. “I understand,” she said.

Nate took her arm in a gesture that might have been friendly under any other circumstance, and pointed her towards the door. They left the same way Willow had come in, Nate’s hand insistent on Willow’s elbow. It was a long ride down the elevator. Neither spoke. Willow didn’t trust her voice and Nate stared at the elevator doors. When the door opened, he propelled Willow into the lobby, only letting go of her for long enough for her to swipe her badge.

The gate swung open. Outside of the security perimeter, he put out a hand for Willow’s badge. She handed it to him without meeting his eyes and turned on her heel to walk away.

“Willow,” he said her name in a tone intended just for her.

She stopped and waited, but didn’t turn back to face him.

“If you were going to throw yourself away, you could have at least fucked me. For the love of penicillin, I would have taken care of you.”

She started walking again, the fear of breaking down in public propelling her forward.

The last thing she heard was Nate’s mumbled “Be well.”

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TCR I, Sheeplishly

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